A Really Good Gun Argument

In the back-and-forth I’ve seen here, in other comment sections, and on Facebook, I’ve seen very few comments from the pro-gun side of the equation as well-stated and well-grounded as the one I’m pasting below. For all the decrying of emotion as a driver, most all the commentary I’ve read–from both sides–is charged with plenty of the stuff.

Not so Phil Carlson, someone I don’t know but recently have “talked” with on Facebook. Phil kindly granted his permission to post his words here. I disagree with Phil in many ways, of course, but his is the first conversation about this that has primarily been conversation, and useful to boot, rather than heated retreat to usual-suspect arguments. So here you go–a solid, well-tempered version of the other side of this argument:

The fixation on magazine capacity and “military style” firearms is distressing to me primarily because they are not really solutions to any of the stated problems; the data already show that “military style” rifles are used in less than 2 percent of gun crimes, and magazine capacity does not play a significant part in the outcome of a mass shooting because the time taken to reload with a detachable magazine of any capacity is quite brief. There is a good deal of misrepresented information out there with regard to high cap magazines used in high profile shootings and it is very difficult to find reliable information regarding exactly what was used.

The descriptions “military style,” and “assault rifle” conjure up all kinds of images associated with exclusive functions of the state, but there is no real difference in function or capability from modern hunting rifles; one shot per trigger pull, easily reloaded, different ergonomics. The ammunition is not notably different or more powerful; in fact many popular hunting rounds are far more powerful than that used in an AR15 or AK47. As an aside, almost every rifle out there was “military style” at some point in the last 150 years.

That they are easily converted to full auto is a myth; the required parts are heavily regulated and you have to know what you are doing to make it work, not that it’s hard to learn. However, manufacturing or possessing a fully automatic firearm or the unique parts without the requisite license carries a minimum of ten years in federal prison.

So far as “need” goes… One can engage in a thousand “what if” scenarios from home invasion to zombie apocalypse and miss the point. Need is not a consideration with regard to a constitutionally guaranteed right. Why does one need to say terrible things about soldiers or police? They who have risked their lives providing freedom and security, should we ban unflattering speech against them? Given the suicide rates in both professions, maybe we’ll save lives.

Real solutions to gun violence reach far beyond regulating guns. It goes to the causes of violent crime and how it can be prevented. In my opinion, education is among the most important factors. Perhaps the reason that gun permit holders account for a miniscule fraction of violent crime is because they have been educated in the principles of firearms safety and responsible gun ownership.

More of the same could really get us somewhere in this debate. So thanks, Phil.

The crucial point above, to my thinking, is the assertion that owning most any gun is constitutionally guaranteed. There are, all the same, certain kinds of guns one cannot currently own. Perhaps it is Phil’s or others’ belief that those should be fair game as well (I’m not sure, so I’ll leave it at that).

I agree that the right to bear arms exists, though I think the “well-regulated militia” bit is being ignored. I disagree strongly with the idea that owning a gun stands any chance of guarding against tyranny (outside of that imposed by, say, a rather small invading army from Freedonia). I think the lines ought to be drawn more restrictively than they are now, an assertion which does no more damage to the right than do the current restrictions on automatic weapons.

I would personally rather see a debate come down to an essential point like that than derail into the easy kinds of arguments that lead to disengagement and alienation of the two sides. Here’s hoping for more.


The problem with the tyranny argument is clear. Tyranny is no longer something that suddenly comes to attack you at your house with a gun. The armed forces of the United States are not going to turn on you; they don’t now, and aren’t ever likely to enforce the wiles of a tyrannical president by rounding up citizens. They are our fellow citizens, not robots.

Tyranny arrives via the slow, political suspension of rights, as in the suspension of habeas corpus (Bush and Obama), the claim that you can detain Americans indefinitely without charge (Bush and Obama), and the claim that you can assassinate American citizens if you’ve unilaterally declared them terrorists (Obama).

It’s convenient to believe you can hole up with your Glock and “defend your rights,” but if it was an effective strategy, we wouldn’t be where we are now. It was primarily the very same folks now crowing about protecting us all from tyranny who were cheerleading as Bush obliterated their rights, made us a nation that tortures, began the above destruction of due process, and spied on Americans–i.e., defining hallmarks of tyranny. How did that “protection” work out then?

It’s through such destruction that we could very easily find ourselves a nation bereft of the rest of our constitutional rights, but with the Second Amendment perfectly intact, doing its new job of falsely equating the specific right to own a gun with the general idea of “freedom.”

James Heflin

Author: James Heflin

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